While I was out walking last week, I kept hearing a rattling noise coming from my feet. Every time I took a step, it sounded as if I had maracas attached to my shoes. Even my dog kept staring at them. She probably thought she was about to be attacked by a rattlesnake.
When I got home, I checked my shoes. They’re a running shoe that has what looks like a hollow plastic tube wrapped around the backs of the heels. Well, the shoes were so worn out, there were holes in the tubes, and gravel had gotten into them. Every time I walked, the gravel bounced around inside the plastic.
I figured the time finally had come to buy some new running shoes – or to join a mariachi band and shake my feet.
I thought I’d simply go to the Internet and enter the brand and model number of my current shoes and order a new pair. Unfortunately, the style was so old, it wasn’t even being manufactured any more.
So I headed to a store that sells athletic footwear. The minute I started reading the shoe boxes, I felt as if I had entered some alternate universe. Back when I was a kid, whenever I needed a pair of sneakers (tennis shoes), Mom bought me either Keds or PF Flyers. There wasn’t a whole lot of decision making involved, other than the color.
But now I was facing a sea of shoes with names like Air Pegasus, Wave Prophecy, Gel Runner, Power Grid, BioWeb and Titanium Tootsies (OK, maybe I made up that last one). They all sounded like something Captain Kirk might wear on Star Trek.
The fact that I have one weird foot makes buying shoes a real challenge for me. Not only does my right ankle pronate (cave in to the left) when I walk, I have a bunion so big on that foot, I’ve actually christened it “Benny.” Because of Benny, I am more comfortable wearing men’s shoes, which can cause some real style issues, especially when I want to wear a cocktail dress. Fortunately, when it comes to running shoes, men’s and women’s styles are pretty similar.
A clerk soon approached and asked if I needed help. The completely lost expression on my face must have tipped him off. I told him I wanted some sturdy running shoes that would prevent me from pronating.
He stared blankly at me. “Prevent you from what?” he asked.
“Walking on the inside of my foot.”
He nodded. “The women’s shoes are right over here.”
“I wear men’s,” I said. When he again just stared at me, I added, “Have you ever seen the movie where Cinderella’s stepsisters are trying to squeeze their size-11 feet into a size-3 glass slipper so they can marry the prince? Well, that’s how I look when I try to wear women’s shoes.”
Judging from the guy’s expression, I was pretty sure he thought he was way too macho to ever have watched Cinderella.
Until then, I’d never realized that trying on shoes was so physically demanding. I mean, I had to take them out of the box, remove the wadded-up tissue paper stuffed inside the toes, then figure out how to untie the creative knots in the laces – many of which looked as if they’d been replicated from a macramé pattern. And every time I slipped my foot into a shoe, I had to bend over to lace it up and then stand and walk on it to test it.
So after trying on about 30 pairs of shoes, I felt as if I’d spent six hours in the gym.
The problem was, there was something wrong with every shoe. One pinched my big toe. Another rubbed my heel. And just about all of them did nothing for my pronation. When I finally did find one that seemed passable, it was too big, and wasn’t made in a smaller size. I left there without buying a thing.
I waited a few days before I went shoe shopping again. This time, I was more prepared. I’d done some research on my computer about the brands and styles that were best for pronation, and wrote them down. Armed with my list, I went to the mall, Sears, two sporting-goods stores and a department store, the majority of which carried none of the shoes on my list. Still, I tried on over 50 pairs.
Once again I came home without buying any footwear. But my back was so sore after bending over to lace up so many shoes, I didn’t feel like going for my daily walk anyway.
Out of desperation, I checked Ebay to see if someone might be auctioning off a pair of running shoes in the brand and style of my ancient ones. I couldn’t believe my eyes when three pairs popped up…and one miraculously was in my size. I immediately placed a bid and won.
The only drawback was the shoes were described as “gently used.” With my luck, the guy who wore them suffered from a bad case of athlete’s foot or some rare, toe-eating fungus.
I’ll take my chances.